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Bach With A Twist, Part 1

Viol player Susanne Heinrich and lutenist Miguel Rincón perform transcriptions of Bach's Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas.

Bach's Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor (BWV 1001)

Today is the first of three podcasts in a mini-series we’ll call “Bach with a twist…”  First, we’ll hear Bach’s solo violin sonatas and partitas, then the following week , two recordings of Bach’s cello suites, and finally,  new recordings of Bach’s Art of fugue.  Bach three weeks in a row!

Sonatas and Partitas

Some of the most famous and well-loved pieces for solo violin are Bach’s 6 Sonatas and Partitas. We all have lots of favorite recordings, but here are a couple of new ones to consider: Viol player, Susanne Heinrich has transcribed three of the violin works for her bass viola da gamba in a 2012 recording from the dagamba label,and Miguel Rincón performs another two of the violin masterpieces on the lute, in a 2013 Carpe Diem Records release.


These pieces sound very familiar and yet entirely different on the lute. I guess the only question is why. Or maybe more accurately, why not make an arrangement like this.

If its historical proof we’re looking for, we do have some. Bach set a precedent for transcriptions of this kind with his lute suite in G minor (BWV 995), which just happens to be his own reworking of the 5th cello suite. This example speaks to a whole culture of transcriptions, especially in the lute world. Lute players were constantly playing music of others. Furthermore, the reusing of material was common: J.S. Bach recycled his own material all the time. Did you know that the Preludio from the E major violin partita is the same music as the opening Sinfonia from Bach’s cantata Wir Danken Dir, Gott, Wir Danken Dir, BWV 29?

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Viola da Gamba

In the same spirit of Bach transcription, Susanne Heinrich has arranged some movements of these violin pieces to play on bass viol.  One important note is that she performs from the facsimile, and, aside from an occasional added note or chord or tonal shift, there is actually very little done in terms of arranging.

[playlist-item 2]

Other recordings heard on this podcast:

[playlist-item 3]

Janelle Davis

Janelle Davis is a violinist and performer with period instrument ensembles throughout the United States. She is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Music degree from Indiana University, Bloomington where she specializes in early music.

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